Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Giants sluggers provide big spark in series-opening victory over Swallows

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Hisayoshi Chono and Casey McGehee put the Yomiuri Giants in position for a win over their crosstown rivals.

Hayato Sakamoto made sure they got the job done.

Chono drove in four runs, McGehee had an RBI-single among his four hits and Sakamoto put the game away with a two-run homer in the eighth inning to help the Kyojin beat the Tokyo Yakult Swallows 8-5 on Friday night in front of a crowd of 46,851 at Tokyo Dome.

The Swallows had NPB’s best record during interleague play at 12-6, but it was the Giants who made a winning return to Central League play in the “Tokyo Series.”

“It was good to get back and help the team win,” McGehee said. “Starting back from interleague, it’s important to get off to a good start, so I’m just glad I could be a part of a good win for us.”

Chono did most of the damage.

After McGehee gave the Giants an early lead with his RBI single in the first, Chono connected on a two-run double later in the inning to make the score 3-0.

“I was thinking I had a chance to do something,” Chono said. “I went up there determined to go after the first pitch.”

He hit another two-run double in his second at-bat of the night, in the third inning.

“It flew to a good place, I’m happy (Yoshiyuki) Kamei-san was able to make it home (from first),” Chono said.

Chono finished 3-for-4 overall, having entered the game with just eight hits and no RBIs in June.

McGehee had also been having an uneventful month until Friday’s game and was making his first start since June 8.

“You can only take care of what we can do that day,” McGehee said. “As long as the team is playing well, I’ll be ready whenever they ask me to play or whatever situation they need me to be ready for. The most important thing is to try to finish strong before the All-Star break as a team.”

McGehee returned to the lineup with a bang, hitting an RBI single in the first, doubling off the wall in center during the third and adding two more singles in the fourth and seventh innings.

The Giants also added a run on an error and took an 6-2 lead into the eighth before a three-run home run by the Swallows’ Kazuhiro Hatakeyama cut the lead to one.

Sakamoto pushed the advantage to three with his 10th home run of the year in the bottom half, a two-run shot deep to left.

The early run support kept the pressure off ace Tomoyuki Sugano, who wasn’t quite as dominating as usual in picking up his eighth win of the season.

Sugano (8-4) allowed two runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and two walks over six innings in an 125-pitch outing.

The Swallows relied on the long ball for their offense. Before Hatakeyama’s blast in the eighth, Naomichi Nishiura got the Birds on the board with a two-run homer in the fourth.

Yakult starter Hiroki Yamada was roughed up in his Yakult debut, allowing six runs — five earned — and six hits. Yamada (0-1), who was acquired from the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in November, struck out two and walked three in 2 2/3 innings on the mound.

Dragons win on walk-off walk in 11th

Nagoya KYODO

Yokoham a manager Alex Ramirez, whose 26 intentional walks are the most in Japan, ordered two in the 11th inning to load the bases, and the Dragons’ Yohei Oshima walked with two outs to drive in Chunichi’s winning run in a 4-3 victory over the BayStars on Friday night in Central League action.

Carp 5, Tigers 3

At Koshien Stadium, Daichi Osera (10-3) threw seven scoreless innings to beat Hanshin as the top four batters in league-leading Hiroshima’s lineup each scored a run and drove one in.

PACIFIC LEAGUE

Lions 5, Marines 1

At Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium, Yusei Kikuchi threw seven impressive innings and Seibu doubled six times in a victory over Chiba Lotte.

Kikuchi (8-0) allowed no runs on five hits, all singles, while striking out six and not issuing a walk in his 118-pitch outing against former Lions ace Hideaki Wakui.

“It was a little tough at the start, but the batters were scoring in every inning, so it got easier on me,” said Kikuchi. “I figured if I could just hold on, they’d get me some runs. I tried hard because I wanted us to get a good start as league play re-started.”

The league-leading Lions got on the board in the second, when Hotaka Yamakawa doubled off the fence in left and scored on Shogo Saito’s hard-hit, two-out single. The visitors made it 2-0 in the fourth, when Tomoya Mori doubled and scored on Shuta Tonosaki’s single.

Yuji Kaneko repeated the pattern in the fifth, doubling with one out and scoring on Hideto Asamura’s two-out single. Mori doubled again to open the Lions’ sixth. Tonosaki singled and stole second. Kaneko singled to drive in two runs and chase Wakui from the mound.

Wakui (4-6) allowed five runs in 5-2/3 innings. He gave up 10 hits and two walks, while striking out eight.

The Marines never really threatened until the seventh, thanks to two no-out infield singles on tough balls to third baseman Tonosaki. A double play eased the pressure and a third grounder to Tonosaki got Kikuchi out of the inning without a run scoring.

“My teammates bail me out all the time, so I was determined to get out of that jam,” Kikuchi said.

Hawks 5, Buffaloes 3 (10)

At Kobe’s Hotto Motto Field, Akira Nakamura hit a pair of big two-run homers to lead Fukuoka SoftBank past Orix in the 10th inning.

His fifth-inning blast tied the game 3-3, and his two-out, 10th-inning shot broke the tie.

Fighters at Eagles (late)